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By: Shayne Benowitz

The Florida Everglades is home to one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. And with plenty of family-friendly options to choose from, as well as experiences suited to hard-core adventurers, it’s a great spot to add to your travel plans. There are many ways to discover everything the Everglades has to offer on a day trip or overnight stay. Whether it’s hiking, biking, camping or gliding across the “River of Grass” on an exciting airboat tour, here’s your guide for outdoor activities in Everglades National Park and surrounding areas.

Note that access to Everglades National Park can change depending on the season (weather and water levels may mean that parts of the park are periodically closed to visitors), so it’s good to plan ahead.

Everglades Alligator Farm Airboat
Family fun touring the Everglades on an airboat

Airboat Tours & Wildlife Shows

Airboat tours are hands down one of the most popular and accessible ways to experience the Florida Everglades. These tours are a fun way for the entire family to get out into this unique ecosystem, and they often include educational wildlife shows and exhibitions perfect for curious kids and adults alike. Here are a few of our favorites.

Coopertown Airboat
See alligators, turtles and wading birds on a Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tour

Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tour

Founded in 1945, Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tour is the original. You’ll learn about the area’s natural ecosystem and the history of the Everglades at Coopertown while spotting alligators, turtles and wading birds in the wild. Before or after your airboat tour, be sure to catch their alligator show and reptile display where you’ll have a chance to hold a baby alligator. There’s a small restaurant next to the gift shop that serves fried gator tail and frog legs for a true taste of the ‘glades. Take one of the larger airboat tours, or opt for a private tour.

Everglades Safari Park

Everglades Safari Park serves up all sorts of family-friendly outdoor fun, from thrilling airboat rides to wildlife shows and private eco-adventures. Each 30- to 40-minute airboat tour includes tickets to an additional wildlife show with alligators and crocodiles. You can even get your photo taken with a baby alligator. The park is connected by a jungle trail with an observation platform offering scenic views, including Gator Island, where gators and crocs enjoy sunbathing. There’s also a small restaurant and gift shop onsite. Purchase tickets online in advance to guarantee your reservation, as capacity is limited for the airboat tours.

Everglades Alligator Farm Baby
Hold a baby alligator at Everglades Alligator Farm

Everglades Alligator Farm

Everglades Alligator Farm’s airboat tour includes admission to their reptile shows and alligator farm. You can also book enhanced experiences, like the hour-long alligator encounter where you and the family will get up close and personal with hundreds of gators. In this same experience, you’ll also get the chance to feed these awesome creatures and hold a baby alligator. Everglades Alligator Farm specializes in private airboat tours and VIP experiences where your family can spend extra time exploring these wild and exciting surroundings.

Miccosukee dreamcatcher
Learn about Miccosukee traditions

Miccosukee Reservation

Miccosukee is a historic Indian reservation, home to a resort, casino, airboat rides and an Indian Village. While the casino and resort have fully reopened, the Indian Village currently remains closed (with the exception of the gift shop) as a precaution related to COVID-19. Their thrilling airboat tours, open seven days a week, offer a glimpse of Miccosukee traditions – including a stop at a hammock-style camp that has been maintained by the same family for more than 100 years.

Great Egrets in the Everglades
Enjoy a day of nature at Everglades National Park

Entrances To Everglades National Park

If you’re looking for family-friendly activities in the Everglades, you can’t go wrong with the many hiking, camping, biking and paddling opportunities. There are three entrances to Everglades National Park near Miami: Shark Valley, Royal Palm and Flamingo. Each area offers its own unique set of activities for all levels, from short hikes to outdoor camping to ranger-led programs perfect for little ones.

While Everglades National Park is open with COVID-19 safety precautions in place, call or check the park’s website for amenity availability and hours.

Biking Shark Valley
Explore Shark Valley by bike

Shark Valley Entrance

Location: 30 miles west off the Tamiami Trail

Shark Valley Visitor Center is an excellent entry point to the Everglades for families with younger children – and there’s plenty to explore for visitors of all ages. Embark on a ranger or naturalist led tram tour around Shark Valley’s 15-mile paved loop. Bike rentals are also available at the park, or you can bring your own wheels. There are also shorter trails to explore by foot. Don’t be surprised if you spot an alligator snoozing in the sun, but don’t get too close either. At the midway point of the paved loop, you’ll find a 70-foot-tall observation tower where you can take in unobstructed views of the lush vegetation sprawling before you.

Gumbo Limbo
Take a short hike on the Gumbo Limbo Trail

Royal Palm Entrance

Location: Royal Palm is accessible through Homestead in South Dade.

Royal Palm is a destination for active families who enjoy a good nature hike in the wilderness. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is located here, offering a variety of ranger-led programs and hikes. For short hikes, try the Anhinga or Gumbo Limbo Trail, both of which are less than a mile long. If you’re looking for a more strenuous trail, take on the 22 miles of Long Pine Key’s connecting trails. The variety of options makes it easy to tailor your experience to your activity level and enjoy the surrounding sawgrass prairie. If you decide to travel deeper into the glades towards the Flamingo entrance, kayaking, canoeing and camping are also on offer.

Flamingo Campground
Stay overnight in the Everglades

Flamingo Entrance

Location: Flamingo is accessible by boat or by driving south for about 40 miles from the Royal Palm entrance in Homestead (it’s one long road from Royal Palm to Flamingo).

For a truly immersive Everglades outing, make your way to the southernmost tip of the Florida Peninsula to the Flamingo entrance to the park and Flamingo Adventures’ campgrounds. Set in Florida Bay’s backcountry, this is an oasis for birders, anglers and anyone who loves the great outdoors. Flamingo makes it easy for families to plan an overnight stay in the Everglades with their campsite, eco-tents and houseboat accommodations. For experienced campers and RVers, hitch your trailer and pitch a tent at Long Pine Key or Flamingo Campground. For those looking for a more full-service experience, Flamingo offers safari-style eco-tents outfitted with beds, electricity, a seating area and floor fans, depending on the season.

You can even rent a 42-foot, two-bedroom houseboat that sleeps up to six people to explore Whitewater Bay with your family by day and sleep comfortably docked at the marina by night. For day trippers, Flamingo Adventures also offers boat tours and canoe, kayak and bike rentals to explore the abundance of trails and streams.

The Flamingo Visitor Center is a good source of information on trails, wildlife watching and local experiences.

Anhinga Drying
Go bird watching, take a ranger-led hike or ride on a swamp buggy

Nearby: Big Cypress National Preserve

Spanning over 700,000 acres adjacent to the Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve is a vast slow-moving slough, covering hardwood hammocks, pinelands, prairies, cypress swamps and estuaries before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Oasis Visitor Center is the closest entry point from Miami. A variety of activities are on offer, from ranger-led discovery hikes to treks down the Florida National Scenic Trail and bird watching on the wildlife observation deck. You can also embark on guided canoe excursions or swamp buggy tours. Swamp tours are found nearby at the Clyde Butcher Gallery.

With its lack of light pollution, Big Cypress is home to one of the most stunning night skies. Camping at one of the eight campgrounds here is an unforgettable experience.

Things To Do Nearby

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